The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t ready just yet to commit to the Kenny Pickett era.
After Mitch Trubisky was benched at halftime of the Steelers’ 24-20 loss to the New York Jets in favor of the rookie quarterback, head coach Mike Tomlin was non-committal when it comes to who will be the starting quarterback come Week 5 versus the Buffalo Bills.
“We’ll deal with next week, next week.”
He also explained why he went with his backup quarterback with Pittsburgh trailing just 10-6 at halftime.
“I thought we needed a spark, man. We didn’t do much in the first half, not enough offensively, and I thought he could provide a spark for us.”
Pickett Provides Steelers Offense With Immediate Boost
Despite Pickett’s rough stat line — 10-of-13, with all of his incompletions being interceptions — he did give the Steelers offense a jolt. Pittsburgh scored 14 straight points behind Pickett and held a 20-10 advantage during the fourth quarter — due to Pickett’s two touchdown runs — but they blew the lead in the closing minutes of the game.
Pickett committed a costly turnover with Pittsburgh up by three points and in Jets territory with 3:42 remaining in the game. New York would end up scoring the game-winning touchdown on the ensuing drive with 18 seconds remaining.
“You can’t throw an interception there at that point in the game,” Pickett said following the game. “Obviously, we were moving the ball well. You want to be aggressive, but at the same time, the clock was our friend there and we wanted to possess the ball. I can’t make that mistake.
“It’s something I need to learn from quickly and get it fixed for whenever my next opportunity comes,” Pickett continued. Tomlin said Pickett brought “some energy” to the offense. “We scored some touchdowns. But, obviously, we also turned the ball over.”
Trubisky Responds to Benching by Tomlin
Trubisky — who beat out Pickett during a preseason battle for the starting job — was benched for the first time after four starts. The 28-year-old quarterback has had a rough start to his Steelers career, completing just 59.7 percent of his passes and throwing just two touchdowns and two interceptions for a 73.7 quarterback rating.
Prior to his benching, he went just 7-of-13 for 83 passing yards.
Including his start versus the Jets, Trubisky had led just four touchdown drives for the Steelers. The veteran quarterback responded to his benching following the game.
“Just come into work, be a good teammate, continue to try to be a leader for this team, and go back to work and help any way I can. It’s just a tough deal. It’s definitely not what I wanted, not what I expected, but it’s part of it,” Trubisky said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Steelers face an absolutely brutal schedule in their next four games. They’ll visit the Bills in Buffalo in Week 5, host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following week, visit the Miami Dolphins the week after and then visit the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8.
While now may not be the perfect time to start Pickett, it’s going to be hard to go back to Trubisky considering the spark the rookie provided the Steelers offense during his first appearance.
We’ll see what Tomlin ultimately decides as the Steelers look to get back on a winning track versus the Bills following a 1-3 start.